Who’s Shopping Forged Documents to the Washington Press Corps?

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On May 9, Reality Winner, an NSA contract worker, downloaded a file that outlined details of Russian hacking efforts just before the 2016 election. On June 5, the Intercept published her file.

But something interesting happened between May and June: someone used the Winner document as the basis to create a forgery of a different top-secret document that named a specific Trump aide who had colluded with Russia. This forgery was apparently shopped around to journalists, including Rachel Maddow, who described what happened on her show last night.

So…who had access to the Winner file before it was published? Who’s peddling this stuff? Was it from a Trump opponent who meant it to be taken seriously but didn’t quite do the job well enough? Was it from a Trump supporter who hoped someone in the mainstream media would publish it and then look like a fool? Was it from someone in the intelligence community who wanted to sow seeds of doubt in news organizations that receive stolen documents? Good question! As Maddow mentioned, two other news organizations have had to retract stories recently based on problems with “sourcing.” This might be part of a concerted effort to discredit the media looking into the Trump-Russia connection.

I will say one thing, though: Maddow compared this to the fake documents that CBS published about George Bush’s National Guard service. That’s a dead end. We have a pretty good idea of where those came from, and it wasn’t some part of the deep state. It was just an idiot with a grudge against Bush.

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DONALD TRUMP & DEMOCRACY

Mother Jones was founded to do things differently in the aftermath of a political crisis: Watergate. We stand for justice and democracy. We reject false equivalence. We go after, and go deep on, stories others don’t. And we’re a nonprofit newsroom because we knew corporations and billionaires would never fund the journalism we do. Our reporting makes a difference in policies and people’s lives changed.

And we need your support like never before to vigorously fight back against the existential threats American democracy and journalism face. We’re running behind our online fundraising targets and urgently need all hands on deck right now. We can’t afford to come up short—we have no cushion; we leave it all on the field.

Please help with a donation today if you can—even just a few bucks helps. Not ready to donate but interested in our work? Sign up for our Daily newsletter to stay well-informed—and see what makes our people-powered, not profit-driven, journalism special.

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